Talk not Text
Recently, I got an internal escalation about an issue with one of our outsourcing partners. He was frustrated that my colleagues were not responding to his requests for clearing his pending payments. He had struggled for many months and every time he was given a false assurance, a run-around or both. Plenty of emails and WhatsApp messages were being exchanged. Matters finally reached a breakpoint. The partner had switched off the service that was being operated – in an effort to make us listen.
I did not have the full context of the problem, but knew it was serious because our customers were being impacted. I could join the gang of texters – send an angry WhatsApp message asking for the service to be restored. I realised I would be no different than the others, and that was not going to solve the problem. I decided to call and talk to the head of the outsourcing company.
As I listened to his side of the story, I realised that what he really wanted was to be heard. He promised to restart the services immediately. He sent me the full email trails exchanged over many months. It was not a pretty sight for me to see how some of my colleagues had acted. It had not been an easy call for me to make. I tend to stay away from such problems. But in this case, I realised I had to do it. And as I heard the head of the outsourcing company speak, I realised I had made the right decision to talk and not text. No text could have captured the emotions and pain that was being felt.
As managers, leaders and entrepreneurs, we are always going to be faced with issues – either internal or external. In today’s digital world, email and WhatsApp have increasingly replaced the directness of face-to-face conversations. The digital world is pithy and informal. The physical world means looking someone in the eye and feeling what they are going through. We tend to avoid the latter, without realising the bluntness of a text message can someone do more harm than good.
When faced with a difficult situation, consider calling and speaking to the other person. You will surprise them and that will go a long way in resolving the issue. Many times, what holds us back is our own ego. If we can set that aside and speak with humility, we will find that the hardest of interpersonal problems can be resolved to our satisfaction. Next time you are faced with a tricky situation, instead of replying with a text, try talking.
Tomorrow: Part 43